Bolme Guides Authors in Christian Marketing

Bolme_marketing_12092014Sarah Bolme. 2014. Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.  Charlotte: Crest Publications. Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra One surprise when you become an author is how hard it is to sell books. This comes as a surprise because most authors are also avid readers.  If you are an avid reader, snapping up books recommended by friends and colleagues all the time, it comes as a surprise to learn that everyone does not behave that way!  Sarah Bolme book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, works hard to make sure that disappointment does not follow surprise for aspiring authors and publishers.

Introduction

An important theme in Bolme’s book is the depth and complexity of the Christian book market. Christian books are bought and sold both formally and informally in marketing channels that differ by denomination, ethnicity, workplace, and region. It is not enough to publish your book on Amazon.com and cash your royalty checks.  At a minimum, Christian readers want to know that your theology is consistent with their own faith convictions and that the people with whom they study, worship, volunteer, and work with find your book compelling enough to read and discuss.  The vetting process is important and it shapes book marketing and sales. Bolme likes to point out: Marketing and selling books is not a sprint, it is a marathon (4).

Organization

Bolme’s book is structured around this conception of the Christian book market.  Bolme writes in 19 chapters divided into 4 parts:
  1. Launching Your Books (chapters 1-6);
  2. Selling Your Books (7-15);
  3. Targeting Special Markets (16-19); and
  4. Reference (Index).
These chapters are preceded by a foreword and Introduction, and followed by a number of appendices on special topics.

Content

Reading Bolme’s text has taken me 3 months to read, but not because I have been procrastinating.  In September, when I began reading, I issued my first press release.  I had wanted to issue a press release in August when I began promoting my book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality (T2Pneuma.com), but it was not until I read Bolme’s discussion (122-123) that I learned how to do it.  I found myself requesting reviews (43-53), running book giveaways (www.GoodReads.com;180), doing radio interviews[1] (124-126), applying for awards (63-72), and joining new groups (e.g. Christian Indie Publishers Association—www.ChristianPublishers.net; 7-17) as I read the book.  These activities distracted me from progressing promptly through the book and finishing a review. I also learned why some of my early marketing attempts were unsuccessful.

Why Marketing is Hard

An important problem facing authors and publishers today is the explosion of new book titles and the collapsing readership.  People read fewer printed books than they used to because of, in part, competition from other media, but the growth in independent publishing has also increased the number of authors publishing (73-75).  This means that retailers are inundated with titles and cannot respond directly to author requests; instead, they work through distributors who filter the available books on their behalf.  My requests that local retailers stock my book failed because I did not understand the stocking process.

Assessment

For Christian writers and publishers, Sarah Bolme’s Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is an important read.  Although I did not immediately become a marketing success having read this book, I did finally get an appreciation for the task at hand and got pointed in the right direction.  You may also find it helpful. [1] See the list of interviews at the bottom of the page at:  T2Pneuma.com.

Bolme Guides Authors in Christian Marketing

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com. Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2019
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Book Give-Away: A Christian Guide to Spirituality

1_Hagia_Sophia_book_cover_front_web_6x9_07282014A Christian Guide to Spirituality is now available and I would like to send you a free copy.  I do ask, however, that you help me out with the following items:

  1. Register to follow me on T2Pneuma.net or on Twitter at @T2Pneuma.
  2. Take a look at my publishers website:  T2Pneuma.com.  In particular, check out the Leader Guide and Media Guide (text and video both).
  3. Mention T2Pneuma.com on social media or write a review.
  4. Take a brief survey at:  A Christian Guide to Spirituality Reader Survey.
  5. Send me your mailing address (and email) at T2Pneuma@gmail.com.

If you decide to write a review, please write for your usual audience and also post it on Amazon.com.

If you live outside the United States the cost of postage prohibits me from sending a paperback book, but I can send you a password-protected *pdf version for review.

I will honor book requests for at least the first 30 people to respond.  Please be patient as it may take a couple weeks to respond to requests.

If you would like to organize a small group or church-wide study or purchase books to donate to others, please use CreateSpace [1] to receive a volume discount [2].

Thank you for your support.

Stephen

 

[1] On purchases of 10 or more copies go to: www.CreateSpace.com/4669702. On checking out, enter the code (U7REX9Q4) to receive 20 percent discount off the list price. For orders of 50 or more copies, enter the code (83WZLNW4) to receive 30 percent discount off the list price.

[2] Financially, the break-even point on this project is sale of two to third thousand books through CreateSpace. Less than 5 percent of independent authors sell over a 1,000 books.Helen Sedwick. 2014.  Self-Publishers Legal Handbook. Santa Rosa, CA:  Ten Gallon Press. (www.HelenSedwick.com)

 

 

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Leader and Media Guides to A Christian Guide to Spirituality Now Available

1_Hagia_Sophia_book_cover_front_web_6x9_07282014This past week was launch week for A Christian Guide to Spirituality.  The printer, CreateSpace, set up the webpage on Amazon.com much faster than anticipated.  This meant that a week’s worth of work had to be done in a couple days.  Please excuse the departure from my normal posting routine here on T2Pneuma.net.

Because A Christian Guide to Spirituality is both a devotional and a study in Christian spirituality, it should make for an interesting focus for a small group or church-wide study.  One activity that kept me busy this past week was preparing a Leader Guide to the book. The Leader Guide provides an overview of the book both in the form of a post (text) and You-Tube video.  Volume discounts are available for church leaders making purchases [1].

Because of changes in the production and marketing of books in recent years, authors need to publicize their own books. Currently, A Christian Guide to Spirituality has its own website (T2Pneuma.com).  The website also includes a Media Guide specifically designed to assist media personal in developing online and “live” interviews with me, the author.  The Media Guide takes the form of a series of question for the interviewer to pose and my response in form of both a post (text) and a You-Tube video.  While the Leader Guide focuse on the book, the Media Guide focuses more on the author and process of writing.

Books have been written on the many things that author-publishers need to do in writing, designing, and launching books.  The process is both terribly interesting and a bit intimidating.  I appreciate your willingness to follow along with me in this journey and I hope that you will consider using A Christian Guide to Spirituality in your devotions and recommend it to your family, friends, and church group.

If you would like to help get the word out on a A Christian Guide to Spirituality, please mention the website (T2Pneuma.com) on social media.

Thank you.

Stephen

[1] Get 20% off the list price on orders of 10 or more books at www.CreateSpace.com/4669702.  On checkout, enter this code (U7REX9Q4).  For  orders of 50 or more books, receive 30% off by entering code (83WZLNW4).

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Ritchie Peers into the Heart of Darkness

Ritchie_06282014Mark Andrew Richie [1]. 2000. Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomanö Shaman’s Story. Chicago: Island Lake Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

When I was elementary school, the curriculum emphasized repetition. If one paid attention and got it the first time, then boredom was the big challenge. At first, I spent the extra time acting out in class, but I later learned to keep a pile of library books in my desk and simply read during repetitious lessons. To keep the pilot light running in seminary, I read books from the recommended reading lists or recommended by trusted friends in Christ.  Mark Richie’s Spirit of the Rainforest was one such book.

Understanding why this book is interesting requires a bit of background.  In the early modern era, humanists questioned the divinity of Christ and especially the doctrine of the atonement.  The atonement suggested that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) and it implied that humans were inherently sinful (Genesis 3:6).  By contrast, the humanists believed that humanity was basically good (and was not in need of Christ’s atonement or absolute moral standards) and they sought to build a utopia without God. In this context, the idea of a noble savage arose—primitive human beings untainted by civilization who were inherently good, not evil [2].

Enter Jungleman, a Shaman [3] living among the Yanomanö people of the Amazon rainforests of Columbia who was untouched by the corrupted influence of civilization.  Spirit of the Rainforest is the narrative of his life told from his perspective (8).  Richie writes in his introduction:

The Yanomamö are one of the world’s most mysterious peoples.  Small, rarely over five feet tall, they have the speed, strength, and agility of a jungle cat.  Their woman can tote their own weight up and down a jungle trail that would challenge me even if I were empty handed.  Their men can call, track, and shoot anything that breathes in a jungle that is hostile enough to kill anyone but a trained survivalist (7).

As a young warrior, Jungleman invited demons from the spirit world into his heart and mind.  These demons offer him knowledge of far off events and strength in defeating his enemies. Jungleman knows these demons by animal names, such as Jaguar Spirit, Monkey Spirit, and so on.  For example, Ritchie writes about Jaguar Spirit, the dominant, warrior or hunting spirit:

“Don’t go in here.” [Referring to a Christian village] Jaguar Spirit told me.  “There’s too much danger here. We are afraid.” It was the first time I had ever heard fear coming from Jaguar Spirit, and it made me feel poor inside. My hands began to flutter and I held my bow tight to make them stop. (97)

But these spirits cannot be trusted and will abandon and turn on a Shaman when he shows weakness (like not following their advice to kill someone—especially children in a competing village) or for growing old.

Much of the violence among Yanomanö people historically arose in fights over women.  The Yanomanö traditionally practiced polygamy and raided other villages to procure young women.  Such raids were not easily forgotten because people would be killed and families broken up.  Consequently, longstanding blood vendettas existed among neighboring villages.

Jungleman eventually comes to know Christ.  His spirits abandoned him.  In turn, he abandoned his warrior ways and becomes an advocate for the right of Yanomanö women to marry men of their own choosing.

Those who want to believe the noble savage myth (or to disbelieve the existence of the spiritual world) will be disappointed with Ritchie’s Spirit of the Rainforest.  Critics question Ritchie’s claim that he simply wrote down what he was told (8).  I was not disappointed and found his accounts credible, in part, because his accounts of Yanomanö life are consistent with accounts of other native cultures.  For example, the purpose of head-hunting in pre-modern Taiwan was:

To gain a head, as noted earlier, was to qualify a young man to gain the young woman he wished to marry.  Revenge for the death of a loved one was also the occasion to take an enemy head [4].

There is also striking consistency in the influence of a Monkey Spirit (a spirit of lust acted out indiscriminately) in jungle culture and our own.

Ritchie’s Spirit of the Rainforest is a page turner and a great book to take along to the beach—reality is so much more interesting than fantasy.  As a narrative, this book lends itself to becoming a good screen play [5].

[1] http://markritchie.me/spirit-of-the-rainforest.

[2] The film, The Wild Child (1970) by Francois Truffaut chronicles the story of an abandoned child in 1798 who lived in the woods alone.  When he was discovered, he could not speak and was suspicious of other people.  A French scientist takes him in attempting to educate him and to learn from him as a potential validation of the noble savage hypothesis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wild_Child).

[3] A shaman is a term that replaced the politically incorrect term, witch doctor.

[4] Ralph Covell. 1998.  Pentecost of the Hills in Taiwan. Pasadena:  Hope Publishing House. Page 26.

[5] Another film about Amazon tribal life is:  End of a Spear (2006; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeEF_3J0ZY0).  This film re-enacts the story of Mincayani, Waodani warrior, who leads the raid that kills Steve Saint’s father and four other missionaries in 1956.

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MacGregor Aids Authors; Simplifies Social Media

Writer_01072014Chip MacGregor (a.k.a. Amanda Luedeke). 2013.  The Extroverted Writer:  An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform.  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

People are funny.  Back during the cold war, the wife of a Russian friend of mine kept calling to ask him to come home.  Vladimir, she would say, I cannot take care of the kids and do the shopping too!  When she came to visit, the complaints continued.  That is, until she visited a local department store.  At that point she was lost in choices.  She asked:  how do you Americans ever know what to buy?

As a first-time author, I feel a bit like Vladimir’s wife amid all the publishing alternatives.  At least 4 intimidating questions arise:

  1. Which stylebook should I follow?
  2. Do I promote my writing with a website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media?
  3. Do I self-publish, hire an agent, or look for an established publisher?
  4. Do I publish in paperback, hardcover, or eBook?

Worse, the questions are not interdependent of one another.  In the middle of all this uncertainty, Chip MacGregor’s book, The Extroverted Writer, offers welcome guidance.

MacGregor starts by observing that agents and publishers advise wannabe writers to establish a platform, but offer no guidance on what a platform is or how to get one.  He defines a platform as the number of people who follow you online, attend your speaking engagements or are otherwise know about your work.  For nonfiction writers, he talks about tens to hundreds of thousands of followers; for fiction writers maybe half that many (12-14).  Obviously, establishing a viable platform takes time and effort.  MacGregor’s objective in writing is to offer ideas, rules, and advice to help you establish this platform and at least 10 action items to work on (1-3).

The Extroverted Writer is organized into 8 chapters.  These chapters are preceded by a forward and followed by an Afterword and Acknowledgments.  The chapter titles are informative:
  1. Know your audience,
  2. Know your goals,
  3. How to use this book,
  4. Websites,
  5. Blogs,
  6. Twitter,
  7. Facebook, and
  8. Miscellaneous Social Media Sites.

Obviously, for MacGregor a platform consists of a theme, an audience, and a social media presence.  Interestingly, this book does not cite a publisher, but is listed on Amazon.com as published by CreateSpace which implies that this book is self-published.

MacGregor starts his social media advice by focusing on the need for writers to have a website (17).  A website signals 3 things to agents and publishers:

  1. You are serious about your career,
  2. You are not afraid to use the web to promote yourself, and
  3. They can check you out without committing to a relationship.

Having established the motivation for a website, MacGregor gives advice on quality points to look for in the website.  These points summarize in making the point that a website has effectively become an online resume—it must have eye appeal, be informative, and point to your blog where you show your skills (23-24) [1].

Chip MacGregor’s The Extroverted Writer is a useful author guide and a fun book to read.  Missing perhaps is a reflection on the role of branding–being known for your expertise, not just your following.  For example, why do many boutique publishers have fewer followers than authors with a platform under MacGregor’s guidelines?  Still, MacGregor clearly met his objective in writing.  In each of his social media chapters, I found actionable tips on what to do—easily meeting his goal of leaving me with 10 tips.  Personally, I found his advice on using professional pages in Facebook and on organizing a book giveaway particularly helpful. I am sure you will too.

________________________

1/ In the corporate world, content production and marketing likewise needs to carefully planned (bit.ly/1igPRHp).

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RPC Sharpens Shorts; Gets Buy

Roy Clark, How to Write ShortRoy Peter Clark.  2013.  How To Write Short:  Word Craft for Fast Times.  New York:  Little, Brown, and Company.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

So. You are a boomer with a manuscript in hand terrified of having to promote a book in a new world of blogs and tweets.  What do you do?  Start by reading Roy Peter Clark’s new book, How to Write Short.

Introduction

Clark writes his advice in 35 short reflections organized into two sections:  “How to Write Short” and “How to Write Short with a Purpose”.  He caps these sections off with an epilog: “A Few Final Words–441 to Be Exact”.

Summary

Clark’s first reflection focuses on getting you to open your eyes.  In a world inundated with data in the form of writing, images, and sounds, what catches your attention?  Coyly, Clark paraphrases the line from Sixth Sense.  Not, “I see dead people,” but “I see short writing”(15).  Clark collects shorts like other people collect sidewalk pennies.  In reviewing the sparse style of these shorts, he draws attention to the backstory that makes them interesting.  Shorts sparkle because they remind you of something.  A “grace note,” Clark adds, increases the sparkle by reframing the sparkle in a new, interesting way.  Or it may just offer a jolt (17-21).

Assessment

I did not expect a writing book to be a page turner.  I did not expect How to Write Short would get me to look at my long writing differently.  I do expect that I will be referring back to this book in my book’s next edit. Yeah!

RPC Sharpens Shorts; Gets Buy

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/2018_Character

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The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide for the Perplexed By Gordon P. Hugenberger

Hugenberger, Gordon P. 1994.  The Lord’s Prayer:  A Guide for the Perplexed.  Boston:  Park Street Church.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The book speaks to the hollowing out of large parts of the church in recent years. The consensus view focuses on the form rather than the content of our faith. Liberals have abandoned the basic doctrines of the church while evangelicals have eschewed depth to appeal to seekers. Scholarly devotionals helps mitigate this problem by offering believers something more thoughtful to chew on.

Against this backdrop, the Lord’s Prayer: A Guide for the Perplexed, written by Rev. Dr. Gordon P. Hugenberger reflects biblically on the content of the Lord’s Prayer. For example, the introduction points out that the Gospel of Luke gives special emphasis to Jesus’ prayer life (5). Hugenberger is the senior pastor at Park Street Church, Boston MA and a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. Park Street Church is famous as the site for in early Billy Graham revival in the 1940s.

A topic likely to generate discussion is Hugenberger’s discussion of why newer translations omit the doxology to the Lord’s Prayer. The doxology is–For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen–found, for example, in Matthew 6:13 in the King James Version of the bible at the end of the prayer. The basic reason is that the doxology was added in later Greek manuscripts because Jesus meant the Lord’s Prayer to be a template for prayer, not an officially sanctioned prayer. The church took this advice seriously adding petitions, like the doxology at the end of the prayer (7). When scholars examined earlier manuscripts, those manuscripts did not have the oxology.  Because newer translations give preference to older Greek manuscripts, the doxology was left out or became a footnote.

Hugenberger’s book is useful as a devotional study for mature Christians and their study groups wanting to deepen their understanding of the Lord’s Prayer. The book is short enough to read in one sitting, but devotions are best enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.

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